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Consultation reveals ‘overwhelming’ support for stoat eradication project

Consultations looking into the Orkney Native Wild Life Project have revealed strong public backing for the measures, which include getting rid of stoat’s in the county to protect the area’s other wildlife.

The results of an island-wide community consultation about the Orkney Native Wildlife Project were announced recently. According to those behind the project, the results reveal overwhelming support for its proposal to protect the county’s wildlife by getting rid of stoats in the area.

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project aims to protect Orkney’s native wildlife by eradicating the invasive non-native predator, which was first recorded in Orkney in 2010.

The project is being delivered through a partnership between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB Scotland and has the support of the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Funding of £64,600 was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a nine-month development phase to allow the partnership to consult with the local community and stakeholders and optimise the technical aspects of the eradication.

Between November and February, to gauge the level of local support for this project, a comprehensive consultation was carried out by the project.

Those behind the project have said this included face-to-face consultations at public drop-in sessions, talks and meetings with stakeholders including teachers and community groups. In addition, a questionnaire had almost 900 respondents from around Orkney, which is approximately 4 per cent of the islands’ entire population.

The results indicated extensive support, with ninety-two percent of people who completed a questionnaire saying they believe that there is a duty to protect Orkney’s wildlife for future generations. Other results from the questionnaire show that eighty-eight percent are worried about the decline in native wildlife if stoats are not removed from the islands and eighty-four percent thought it was important to eradicate stoats from Orkney. Information gathered the consultation is now being used to develop plans for the implementation phase of the project.

Graham Neville is an Operations Manager for Scottish Natural Heritage and manages the project partnership. Speaking on behalf of the Orkney Native Wildlife Project, he said: “We would all like to thank everyone for their feedback throughout the consultation process. This has been both overwhelmingly positive and invaluable in providing guidance for the next stages of the project”.

During the consultation process, Orkney Islands Council, agreed to become a key project partner. Councillor Graham Sinclair, chair of Orkney Islands Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “As Orcadians, we are proud of our environment and the wildlife that make our islands such a special place to live and to visit. I welcome the excellent work of SNH and RSPB Scotland in drawing in significant external funding for this project. We will continue to engage with them as they take forward this important project.”

Those undertaking the project have said local people can become directly involved with the delivery of the project which will provide and a range of training opportunities including wildlife monitoring, an educational programme, support for tourism providers and a range of activities.